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Can Air Conditioning Make You Sick?

March 24th, 2020 by Airedale Cooling

Air conditioning is prevalent within the workplace, regardless of how big or small your office is, chances are you have some form of air-con which is keeping you cool and comfortable. However, it’s a common misconception that air conditioners have the ability to make workers poorly, simply by emitting cold air.

However, air conditioning can play a small role in the contraction of an illness, but this is purely down to the way in which they’re maintained. Dirty air conditioners can be incredibly unhygienic, releasing damp and mould spores into the air without anyone knowing. Airedale Cooling Services are able to carry out air-con maintenance on your system, should you suspect that it needs some TLC.

So what can employers do to prevent the spread of sickness within the workplace and who – or what – is really to blame for the initial outbreak?

Office worker sneezing into a tissue

Is aircon really to blame for colds spreading in the office?

It’s unlikely that the cold air emitted from an aircon unit is the reason for a cold and flu outbreak. It’s more likely to be the environment in which we work – being sat in an enclosed space with a large number of people for hours every single day seals in the germs, making it more likely that workers will succumb to sickness.

According to Total Jobs, you’re more likely to contract a common illness from:

Your desk – an American study found that desk phones are the most contaminated item on the average office desk, as over 25,000 organisms were found per surface.

A communal fridge – harmful bacteria can build-up in and around the fridge, causing mould to grow, and so every time you open the fridge, you risk contracting an illness.

Your computer mouse – a study found over 1,600 bacteria per square inch on the average computer mouse.

Your keyboard – the same study found over 3,000 bacteria per square inch on an average keyboard.

Your office mug – office mugs tend to be abandoned on desks with the contents still in them. The longer they’re left, the more bacteria will grow, thus leaving people vulnerable to illness. Not only this, but rinsing a cup under a tap isn’t enough to scrub the germs away, and so they should be washed properly after every single use – don’t forget to wash the handle, too!

Touching door handles – a study by a commercial hygiene service provider found that 25% of office workers don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet. Another survey investigating the issue found that of 100,000 office workers, 40% of women and 62% of men didn’t wash their hands after going to the loo. Therefore, every time you touch a door handle, you could be picking up hundreds of thousands of harmful bacteria.

The photocopier – the buttons can be a breeding ground for germs. Wash your hands before and after using the photocopier. This will help protect yourself and others from illness.

However, it’s not just dirty photocopiers that are wreaking havoc in the workplace. Dirty, mould ridden air conditioning units aren’t going to help the situation, hence why it’s important to check and clean them regularly, ensuring they’re banished of dust, damp and mould.

Clean, cool air can create a comfortable working environment, especially in the summer months, so don’t let an unclean aircon unit strike your employees down with illness.

Can employers prevent sickness spreading in the workplace?

If an increasing number of employees are calling in sick, then this may be a sign that more needs to be done in the workplace to prevent the spread of illness. Where this doesn’t warrant getting rid of your air conditioning units, there’s plenty more which could be done in order to keep your workers as healthy as possible, including:

  • Wash hands after going to the toilet
  • Wash hands after lifting bin lids
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze – be sure to wash your hands afterwards and place all tissues directly in the bin
  • Wipe down your desk, keyboard, mouse and monitors with anti-bacterial wipes
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Throw all leftover food and packaging in the bin
  • Encourage others to do the same
  • Have your air conditioning system cleaned thoroughly

How can employers stop colds spreading in the winter?

Wintry conditions can cause workers to feel a bit under the weather, but as an increasing number of people continue to be struck down with cold and flu, it’s time for employers to take action in order to ensure the health of others in the workplace.

During the colder months, it’s crucial that steps are being taken to either prevent or reduce the number of employees who contract the winter bug, and here’s what employers can do:

  • Encourage those who are poorly to stay at home to prevent the illness from spreading around the workplace
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle
  • Ensure good office hygiene
  • Offer employees the flu jab
  • Ensure aircon temperatures are static – see what the optimum air conditioning temperature is in one of our latest blog posts.

Airedale Cooling Services are able to provide commercial air conditioning to customers throughout Harrogate, Huddersfield, Wakefield, York and the surrounding areas. To learn more about the air conditioning services we’re able to offer, including repairs and maintenance, get in touch with us today – we’re always on hand to help.

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